Topper's Rob Caplan Interviews Bremont Co-Founder Nick English about Bremont's partnership with America's Cup and Oracle
With Bremont Co-Founder Nick English in Bermuda at a Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Race.
As is well known to fans of the brand, your father (Euan English) had a business restoring vintage aircraft. Did that work ever extend to boats as well?
Yes, my brother Giles and I had this wonderful upbringing spending most of our time in our father's workshop. He was an amazing man, a Phd aeronautical engineer from Cambridge, and had a strong passion for building things whether it be old aircraft or clocks, and he even built a boat that we went to live on as kids. He took us out of school for a while and we sailed from the UK to North Africa and then the Mediterranean.
Did you and Giles work on restoring boats growing up? If so, what kind of boats did you work on?
As well as sailing at sea most weekends during the summer months, as a family we lived right by a river in Cambridgeshire in the UK. Giles and I restored a wooden 'Mirror Dingy' with the help of our father. We painted her bright red and she was named the Scarlet Pimpernel. We would spend many a fun evening and weekend sailing up and down the River Ouze as young kids living our own 'Swallows and Amazons' adventurers. We even managed to get hold of an old Seagull outboard engine and would cruise with pride when there was little or no wind!
If you compare modern America's Cup racing to the racing of even 10 years ago, it's a much faster sport. How do you think the excitement of the current racing compares to the sailing of the past?
The sailing has come a long way. It has always been exciting, I remember the Alan Bond and Dennis Conner battles as a young child and they inspired me then. It has now become far more of a spectator sport. The America's Cup is now incredibly exciting to watch and with the latest developments in the boat design, the catamarans now fly over the water thanks to foils and a very advanced wing sail. The boats are sailing three times the speed of the wind which is mind blowing if you think about it. It really has brought sailing and aviation closer together; providing an intriguing new dimension to the partnership from a Bremont perspective. The engineering we've seen surrounding these wingsail catamarans is very exciting to witness. With strong support from the aerospace industries, they are pushing the technology far beyond traditional naval architecture.
The defending champion Oracle Team USA boat. Photo courtesy of Bremont.
I think fans of the brand were really surprised when this partnership with America's Cup and Oracle was announced. How did it come about?
We have always associated ourselves with engineering and adventure whether in the air, on the land, or on the sea and with projects that are close to our heart. The history, adventure, and engineering that has been fundamental to the America's Cup since 1851 makes the sport an obvious partner for us. We also used to get inspired and excited about the America's Cup as children growing up through our father. This was far more his cup of tea compared to the usual sports out there! The America's Cup is unique in that it is possible to forge a relationship with both the Series and the Defender and this was something we found very appealing. ORACLE TEAM USA's winning expertise in technology and our innovative track record in creating beautifully engineered mechanical timepieces complement each other perfectly. ORACLE TEAM USA is made up of the best international sailors, designers, builders and support team, allowing Bremont to share its love of precision and beautiful engineering with a truly world-class team. When you see these boats and talk to the engineers there is such a close link to aviation, for example the Oracle wing sail was developed with aerospace technology. Speaking to Jimmy Spithill, skipper for ORACLE TEAM USA, he went to go and learn to fly so he could sail his boat better, and Oracle Co-founder and Chairman, Larry Ellison, flies his own MIG 29. Unbeknownst to many, the America's Cup also has British roots and it was originally a race around the Isle of Wight, but having been won by a schooner named 'America' it soon became known as the America's Cup.
In my opinion, this is your highest profile partnership, yet it doesn't involve aviation let alone vintage aviation. North American Brand Director, Mike Pearson, talks about how the focus on new collections (Jaguar, and America's Cup) signals a shift for Bremont from a pure aviation themed company to one that is focused on excellent engineering in other areas. How do you feel this and the Jaguar partnership changes Bremont?
I don't think it changes what Bremont is about. The fact of the matter is that as individuals Giles and I are so very passionate about aviation with this running through our veins to a large degree. You can see this clearly through our core range of watches and indeed a huge proportion of our military work. We have also been greatly inspired by our father and his love of sailing and restoring vintage cars, but also by tinkering with mechanical devices. The connection here is certainly the engineering and love of all things mechanical, but also the adventure which connects so many wonderful activities in life.
I know one of the partnerships that you are most proud of is your affiliation with Boeing which enabled you to experiment with a different grade of steel (465). I've heard you beam with pride as you've talked about how the Boeing's research arm (AMRC in Sheffield) is always looking to make things lighter and stronger. Do you see that same type of innovation now that you've watched the highest level of sailing so closely? Do you think your new access to ORACLE TEAM USA will inspire any innovations you'll be able to bring into your timepieces?
Definitely. These boats are really at the pinnacle design and build. They are pushing all boundaries. The resources available to these teams to try and push these 'flying machines' to that extra fraction of a knot means that few industries or sports out there are seeing so many rapid advances in the quest for speed and the materials used in achieving this. The America's Cup boats are continually being altered and tweaked and it would be a missed opportunity to not use some of the intellectual property available to us. There is also this wonderful history of the America's Cup (started 1851) and so this, combined the exotic materials available, would certainly give us an interesting tool box to work with!
It's pretty amazing that in addition to sponsoring the Oracle team, you are sponsoring the race itself. I think you definitely see two distinct DNA sets with the "AC watches" and the "Oracle watches". Can you talk a little bit about the design inspiration of each collection? Do you think you will continue over the course of the partnership to design watches that are centered on the America's Cup race as well as those around the Oracle team?
The partnership with ORACLE TEAM USA gives us a great opportunity to create unique wristwatches based on our values, including those of engineering and adventure. The America's Cup Series is a classic watch collection and elegant in style, befitting the history of the America's Cup and having taken inspiration from the legendary J-Class yachts of the 30s, both classic and beautiful. The ORACLE TEAM USA series is much sportier purpose-built timepiece that is constructed to be used on the water, or in the water, as a reliable piece of equipment for any seafarer or sportsperson. The design has very much evolved from the Supermarine range that is used by divers and military around the world demonstrating its durability and robustness.
A wrist shot of the Oracle I.
The team loved both designs and had worked early on with us on the aesthetics of both watches. The dial on the Oracle I is white and is very easy to read and looks wonderful on the red rubber strap. They loved the look of the watch and this clinched the deal for them, despite the Oracle I being stainless steel compared to the titanium case of the Oracle II. The watch has been very well tried and tested by Bremont and this was also a very important consideration since the team wear them non-stop, including during the racing.
Team Oracle- Photo courtesy of Bremont.
Any closing thoughts about the partnership? How excited are you for the next series of races in 2016?
The teams are becoming more honed and trained and the boats are faster by the week, and all teams are competitive which makes watching the races so exciting. 2016 will be an incredible year with races taking place all around the world. To have a Bremont being the first British Timing Partner to both the America's Cup since 1851 and ORACLE TEAM USA is a complete honour.The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.